Monday, August 29, 2011

His Kisses and Snowflakes

His Kisses and Snowflakes

Night, you gentle seducer
What comforts do you offer me
Beyond dreams made long ago
And those which may never be.

For these I leave this fragile reality
To wander with the moon gods
Across clouds of snowflakes
A world made to melt with the dawn.

Dreams of his kisses and snowflakes
Like so much glitter from a long ago Valentine
And yet I take this luminescent hand
Following it to my night's bed.

To dream of past kisses
While snowflakes fall onto his golden head
Embracing this fragile happiness
And awake with only glitter in my arms.

Oh, night, seduce me again
Lead me from this tarnished future
And let me play with yesterday again
As snowflakes fall to our laughter.

Let not the dawn awake me
From the sweet memory of his kiss
Let not the day leave me
With just glitter to sweep from the floor.

J. Binford-Bell
August 2011

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Escape in Red

Red Umbrella by Christopher Shay

Escape in Red

A world in Blacks and grays
Street lights robbing the night
If all the subtle colors
The rain taking the warmth.

He stood at the rear entrance
Waiting for the rain to stop
For the gray dawn to take the dark night
For his fear to leave him.

The silence of the hall behind him
Became a weight after the call
His mind painting demons in the dark corners
Of his mind and the alley.

The only umbrella red
Was like a siren or a target
Announcing his red fear
Of the empty alley.

Walking swiftly from the panic of the hall
The sirens in his mind announcing his passage
Hiding his face beneath the red umbrella
Declaring his escape.

August 2011

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Vanished - A Magpie Tale

Image provided by Magpie Tales


It seemed such a lark
The four of them
In the old Chevy
On Route 66.

St. Louis to Barstow
Off to college
The summer of '54
One to remember.

Canvas water bag
Tied to the hood ornament
Luggage lashed to the back
Brownie box camera to record it all.

Three friends 
And a stranger
To divide the cost of gas
Share roadside motels.

Pictures taken
We were there
Post cards mailed
Wish you were here.

And then nothing
Just a void
Like the desert 
Into which they drove.

Just a picture
Mailed from Kingman
California here we come

Just four more 
That drove off seeking adventure
On the highway west
Unprepared for the emptiness. 

J. Binford-Bell
August 2011

Clouds Illusions

My sister and I returned to her home in San Fidel from Albuquerque and it was raining over the mesa. With the sun in the process of setting it seemed a good idea to get out the cameras. But little did we know what a show we were in for.

Light and dark
Is this what they mean by the sky opening up?

Light Show
The sun was off to the left of the pictures so this glow is a high cloud reflecting the setting sun. It looked like an alien space craft hiding behind a cloud.

In this photo the rain as well as the clouds were catching the reds of the setting sun and it almost looked like a volcanic eruption. With earthquakes in New Mexico and Colorado and along the Eastern seaboard it could have been. These mesas are basalt and not far from El Mapais Lava field.

As the sun set the clouds and rain lost their red cast but this picture looks a lot like the mushroom cloud from an atomic explosion.

New Mexico is known for its cloud formations especially during the monsoon season here. And rain can be very spotty. While taking these photos not a single drop fell on us but we might have been a bit close to the lightning that erupted from time to time. But my sister and I could not miss this photographic opportunity. I don't know if we will ever see its like again.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Canyon Celebration

Canyon Celebration

Deep within sandstone walls
Memories of seas long gone
Written in the ages before words
Etched by wind

Distant rains on mesas high
Rushing over slick rock and down laughing falls
Drowning the ages
From today
The past.

Scare raindrops rushing down
Seeking the cliff bottoms
Hiding from arid winds

Water racing away
Down slots of stone
Hidden liquid treasure
Of Life

J. Binford-Bell
August 2011

I won the Poetry Palace Perfect Poet Award for Week 50 with this entry.

The Hurrah
For When you
Homeward bond.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Once upon a walk

Thoreau said, "Many men fish all their lives without realizing it is not fish they are after." The same thing can be said for photography, mushrooming, painting, etc. I picked up my camera bag this morning and called the dogs and headed out to capture the perfect picture or find the perfect mushroom, or get an idea for a great painting. And what I actually achieved was a state of Zen even if it did not match Magique's.

I so envy that look of pure spiritual transformation she gets when only on of four paws is on the ground. But I was rather happy with my Nikon D90 on the sport setting. I may still get blurred wings on hummingbirds but no more blurred dogs!

I think she spies some movement in the grass but it is almost as if she admires the view every bit as much as I do. I got pictures of this panorama without her in the foreground but she lends a scale and perspective missing without her there. Which reminds me that some of the things I crop out of a picture should stay because of composition. In the first picture I cropped out the blurred overhead branches only to go back to the uncropped version.

I have another picture of this same sun drenched glen without the pine and stump on the right. But it is that tree that sets off the aspens in the distance.

Another use for the sports icon on my digital camera is ripples on water. But I missed the muskrat that caused the ripples.

I am also using that sports icon for flowers. I tried it on a windy day to avoid blur and was thrilled that while it blurred the background it had greater depth of field where the flowers were concerned meaning I had a better chance of all petals or multiple flowers being in focus.

Don't you love the petal of the upper left flower draped over its neighbor? One of the things about looking through a camera or just taking a walk with a camera is that you become aware of details you would otherwise miss.

Details like the shadows of the hollyhocks on the wall. Or the intricate fold and subtle colors at the heart of a flower.

In the movie about Van Meer - Girl with a Pearl Earring, there is a scene where he asks his maid what color the clouds are and she first answers white. So what color is a white hollyhock? Or a black dog with the sun behind her?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Tool Shed

Image provided by Magpie Tales

The Tool Shed

Just out back
But so oft forgotten
Repository of the mysterious
And last looked for.

The tool shed shelters bits and parts
Those tools not much needed
Brushes and rollers
Paints and pans.

Snowshoes and snow shovel
All summer long
Hoes and rakes
Every winter.

Every spring and fall
The great tool exchange
Promises to establish some order
In all tossed in carelessly after last use.

I stand poised with doors open
Wondering what is at the far back buried
And just how much more
I can fit inside.

The tool shed
How did I ever do without it
And wouldn't it be nice 
To have two.

Jacqui Binford-Bell
August 2011

My father once remarked that fish grow to the capacity of their tank. We were great keepers of aquariums. We also love our tools. Genetic trait I think. And as I prepared for fall and winter I once again faced the tool shed issue. I do have two - far and near. And once again promised to put them in some order. It is not that I do not do it from time to time but that the tools inside seem to party hardy when the door is closed.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Had I Known

Passage of Time
Had I Known
Had I known
That March day
As you prepared to drive away
I would not see you so again
Would I have
Hugged you tighter
Begged you to stay
Not merely waved?
Had I known
That day in July
When your call took me away
From my painting
We would not talk again
Would my words Have been sweeter
Not so in a rush
To get back to my brush?
Love you bye

Had I known
That December move away
Your life would be so short
Without me there
Would I have stayed
Endured more
In hopes to prolong yours
Not been so impatient
To get on with my life?

Had I known
That day in August
Standing beside your bed
You would so soon die
Leave me crying
Would I have made
More time
To spend with you
Should I have foreseen
My last glimpse of you
Would be my last chance?

Had I known
That long ago day in May
I said I do
I would not be able
To change the course
Our lives would take
Would I still
Have tried
Would I still have
Loved you so?


J. Binford-Bell October 2010

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Creative Process - Departures

Dead Horse Mesa 10x24
As an artist I spend a lot of time alone in the studio. But I also know a lot of other artists even if sometime I am more familiar with their work than them personally. But it is their public work and their public personalities I am most likely to know because we socialize at fairs and receptions. At times I can become too familiar with their work and their wardrobe. "That old thing again!" I am likely to think from time to time even of my own work.

Artists get in ruts. Sometimes we seek the ruts because they seem to be demanded of us. Galleries want a Body of Work persona they can market. When they sell one of your paintings they don't want you replacing it with something new! They want another very much like the other. After all that sold didn't it. And when you submit to exhibits and fairs they want your five submissions to be a submission in and of itself. You have to not merely demonstrate that you can paint but that you can advertise and display yourself.

So you stop painting in a certain palate. You narrow down your subjects. And in the absolutely worst possible result you start cookie cutter art. For last year's Rio Grande Holiday show I did cactus flowers on panels - eight 6x6, six 8x8, and four 10x10. I did them because I sold out of the cactus blossoms I had done in a much smaller number at a summer fair. I sold none of them at the winter show.

And so began the winter of my discontent with myself. All along I have painted things I wanted to paint but never taken them out to shows. The gallery I was in seemed to shun them even when what I came to call my dark work won prizes. And because it won praise and sold out of my studio I painted more of it and less of my ever popular New Mexico missions.

Dead Horse Mesa above was a departure. It began as an idle sketch in my "work book" because a patron asked if I ever painted horses. I have several pages of tiny thumbnails of horses and horse heads sketched between photographs of paintings of others I had clipped out of art magazines and pasted in. Eventually I got a sketch I liked.

Hadn't a clue about colors or placement on the canvas or what I was going to do with my foreground. But I decided on a proportion and stretched a canvas. Then stared at it for a week or so as I hung the tracing of the drawing over it in different placement.

Working in my usual sequence I poured the sky and then painted in some of the foreground and decided I had boxed myself in. This sequence works with churches because I know what colors I am using on the church. I hadn't a clue about what color the horses were going to be. So I studied it some more. Hey, it was a study, right? I do all my departures as a study first. Sometimes they never get beyond that stage. Sometimes they never get beyond the stage above. I have three paintings in that place at the moment. I have lost interest in them frankly. Considering taking off the canvas and beginning again. But this painting was garnering positive comments from visitors to my studio and to my fan page. And it had a hold on me.

It remained on the shelf over my painting desk and haunted me. And little by little I would fill in more space until I was left with just the haunting horse heads and skulls. The more I painted the less options there seemed to be for the colors of the main subject and focus of the work.

Major milestone - all color blocks laid in

In the time I had been working on this departure I have finished a triptych, a study for another departure and the finished 24 x 36 painting it inspired, and Canyon Celebration. Finally I refused to let myself work on anything else. When I got to the above stage I almost stopped again. After all it was just a study. I could make notes on what I liked and didn't like, figure out the proportions for the full sized work, and rework the sketch.  But at this stage a customer of mine wanted to see it done.

So if departures are such a big problem why do them? Because I learned so much out of doing this. Certainly more than I learned out of all those cactus blossoms.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Magpie 77 - End of Youth

Summer Evening, Edward Hopper, 1947

End of Youth

Summer I turned six
Walker Air Force Base
Officer housing
Officer brats playing with abandon
Parents drunk on relief
All were back from Korea
Safe in SAC.

All I remembered
Is I was late for dinner
Neighbors on their porches
Catching the desert air
A sip of Mexican vodka
In gaudy Juarez glasses
The tinkling of ice over laughter.
I slipped in the back door
Limped to the bathroom
Cold water burning on fresh cuts
A whine escaping my lips
Please let them not hear
I begged some unknown god
That had protected Dad over unknown land.

But I guess you have to believe
To get special protection
And where was this god in that garage
Where were my parents then
Why hadn't they missed me at dinner
"You're in trouble," my brother said
As I climbed into the top bunk.

"And you too," I whispered back in the dark
"Especially if I tell you left me there"
Oh, and by the way it ends here
All the special protection I have provided you
You no longer have a big sister little brother
That person is now dead
I thought as I curled in upon myself.

Summer I turned six youth ended
I knew I was alone
Against boys bigger than me and little brothers
Sticks and stones can break bones I would learn
Not being missed breaks hearts
There is no special god of deliverance
In a Roswell summer night.

J. Binford-Bell
August 2011

Image and prompt for Magpie 77 was provided by Tess Kincaid at Magpie Tales.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Bell Tower

Bell Tower

Toll No More

They always had that quality
Of  ghost stories well told
And I always wanted to believe
They belonged to some distant past.

Indian children frozen in a blizzard
Running not from home
But back to their culture
Away from schools where they were held.

My parents would whisper
Words of injustice
Prisoner of war camps
For those that never fought the wars.

One by one they were closed
Reservation schools run by religious zealots
Young stripped of family and language
Stories of abuse lingered long after.

I stood decades later
Looking up at the empty shell
San Fidel Indian School closed
Its church in decay.

The people it sought to assimilate
Recovering their past
And culture
Burying the memories.

J. Binford-Bell
August 2011

The history of Indian Boarding Schools is not all consigned to history. In 1902 there were 100 boarding schools as part of the government assimilation policy for American Indian tribes. Between then and 1973 the population of these schools grew to 60,000 First Americans. A defense of the practice of boarding schools could be made because of the vast distances in areas like the Zuni, Hopi and Navajo reservations in Arizona and New Mexico. Was the boarding school policy better or worse than the forced busing in the south during the civil rights era?

A review begun by President Kennedy of the policy of taking children from their families caused the gradual closure of most of those schools beginning in 1973. These closures were largely due to records of abuse of the policy established by Congress. The schools were often subcontracted out to Catholic, Mormon or Baptists and review was not rigid. Those boarding schools that remain open are more dedicated to the preservation of the Indian cultures and languages and faith rather than its annihilation. And some of the students of these schools in the past speak fondly of their experiences there. Others don't. What I heard growing up in the southwest were the horror tales.

The Santa Fe Indian School in Santa Fe, New Mexico is one of the remaining schools with a great reputation.


Check out Poetry Potluck Week 47: History and Stories

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Canyon Celebration

Canyon Celebration
Canyon Celebration is a revisit of a painting I did earlier this year: Cascade. Artists often revisit a subject especially if the first time they do it they are not totally satisfied. Or they feel there is more to be experienced in the subject.

There are aspects of both of these paintings that I like. But there are also things I have not tried in either that I think I want to try in a third painting.


Unpacking paintings I had in Albuquerque I dropped a framed photograph on one and the corner of the frame cut the canvas. Hauling paintings back and forth to fairs I have really ruined very few. Chipped a few frames, broken glass when I did watercolors on paper, but really ruined very few paintings.

I was at first very upset but while this particular painting has been very popular I painted it in 2008 and it has not sold. I never throw away a sketch so I am thinking of redoing it, and finding myself excited by the idea. My style has changed a bit in three years and I have learned a lot about my medium. How I would hate to be one of those artists that is constantly reproducing the same subject over and over. I would be so bored.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Caller of Storms

Old Wind Mill by Skip Hunt

Caller of Storms

Lying beneath the hand stitched comforters
In her mother's old room
She'd hear the steady rhythm of the old mill
Turning to the spring breeze
She'd awake to the turn of the rusty gears
Heralding a shift of the weather.

She thought she could hear it tell
Of the changes of the seasons as the years passed
Its functioning years long forgotten
It stood as sentinel
Its blades against the clouds
And cried, she believed, in a rusty voice of storms not yet seen.

Grandpa used its rise in pitch
As signal to lock up the barn
And herd the family to the dank cellar
 Where wrapped in a quilt from her bed
She would listen to the howl of the wind above
Singing with the tin windmill.
And believe it called up the storms.

The storms would skip and run
Leaving broken trees and torn tin in their wake
When one leveled the wind pump
Her father bolted the downed pin wheel head
To the side of the old metal shed
As a hex sign, he said
To keep the storms at bay.

J. Binford-Bell
August 2011